Mariko Strickland Lum - Prolonging A Love Affair with the Ocean
How we can keep loving our aquatic happy place.
Some people just can’t sit still—not that that’s a bad thing. Take Mariko Strickland Lum, for example, who grew up on the Garden Isle of Kaua‘i, surfing the warm waters, following the wild boar trails through the mountains, grabbing fruit from any liliko‘i vine she could see. After graduating high school, she played college soccer and then played soccer semi-professionally in California before moving back home to discover her talent as a professional stand-up paddle boarder. Mariko was destined to return to the sea.
During a recent beach cleanup on O‘ahu, we picked Mariko’s brain on caring for our coastlines and how to live more pono in order to continue enjoying these special places.
What do you love most about the ocean?
Mariko: I guess I’ve been in love with the ocean since I was a little kid—just from growing up in Hawai‘i and on Kaua‘i, especially. Now, as an adult, I try to do my best to get in the water almost every day, whether it’s paddling or surfing or just even going for a swim. Even dipping in just to refresh myself, you know? A lot of times just seeing the ocean puts your soul at ease. Being near the ocean and smelling it, yeah, it’s a very special place to me as well as to a lot of people that have grown up in Hawai‘i, visited, or even moved here. I feel like we have a huge responsibility to take care of it because she takes care of us. Like I said, it’s my happy place, rejuvenates me, so I have a kuleana [responsibility] to mālama, or take care of our oceans.
What Is that why in addition to staying active in the ocean, you're also involved with its preservation and keeping the beaches clean?
Definitely. I’m confident that we can change our ways with consumption. It’s just like when we banned the use of plastic bags in Hawai‘i. At first it was an adjustment, and then you just get used to it. You start bringing your tote bag. I mean I remember years before, we never had these fancy hydro flasks, you know, and now I can’t imagine my day without it. If I forget it, I’m pretty bummed because I’m thirsty all day, you know, or constantly looking for a water fountain. But back to the ocean, although beach cleanups are great, it’s not the solution to end the problem. We need to be more proactive than reactive. We can do things in our life and our daily lifestyle to change the global patterns. Eliminating single use plastics is definitely a huge one though.
What are some other ways to be pono in and around the ocean?
I’m a big believer in the beach cleanups, but I think where the big change is made is within our daily lifestyle. It’s about asking all the questions in our daily lives. Are we buying vegetables that are packaged in plastic? Are we bringing or using a reusable water bottle every day, rather than using plastic water bottles? Also, are we traveling with reusable utensils, a tote bag, just all the things that work towards not using single-use plastics? Growing your own food is also a great way to cut down on your plastic consumption. Kainoa, my husband is a fisherman so we catch our own fish, buy meat from our local butcher – which helps to eliminate packaging, but also fossil fuels from buying things shipped to the islands.
Education is key. Learn about problem items and solutions, like plastic toothbrushes. You see a lot of those wash up on the beaches, yet there are more sustainable bamboo toothbrushes we can use. We talked about toys, you know, and how many plastic toys there are. Yet, for kids, their interest in these toys might last maybe two minutes and then they’re over it [laughs]. So getting toys that are not made from plastic help care for our beaches as well. In the end, sure, it’s a little bit harder, but if you can use those alternatives instead of plastic, ultimately, it’s going to help our whole society and the global environment. I'm not perfect but am trying my best to make a more conscious effort to reduce my footprint, and together we can help inspire one another to create real change.